Representation Of Latinx People In American Entertainment Industry

People were quick to praise the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (or simply the Academy) for their diversity efforts after they released nominations featuring many female and black nominees. Many felt that this progress wasn’t enough and that they were still failing to include Latinos. They are hereby called the gender neutral Latinx.

In response, #LatinosLeftOut was formed by those who were opposed to their claims about progress. Although it hasn’t grown into a nationwide movement like some of the other hashtags mentioned, #LatinosLeftOut draws attention to an underrepresented group in American cinema. Hollywood critics and producers have made efforts to increase diversity within major American films. However, Hollywood has a tendency to focus too much on black actors, which leaves little recognition for the vital Latinx population. Latinx film industry professionals, actors, directors, producers and filmmakers are very important. They should have more chances to be recognized on an international scale. Despite not being well-represented in entertainment, the Latinx community is crucial to the industry’s success. According to a study, “Latinos account for 17. One study found that 8 percent of Americans are Latinos and they bought 21 percent in movie tickets in 2016. This means that they are overrepresented in the moviegoing population (Moreno). It seems fair and logical to make films that people can identify with, as they are a large supporter of the entertainment industry. Gina Rodriguez, the Latina star on Jane the Virgin, believes that more Latinx-led movies should be produced by movie studios because it would not only be a service but also be… integrity. This idea puts the responsibility on white executives and not Latinx filmmakers who decide which films are funded. Both contribute to the underrepresentation Latinxs among major American films. However, both can be changed by white executives, while Latinx filmmakers not under their direct control have no such power. White Hollywood executives have the ability to make movies and decide who makes them. This means that they can help minorities who are interested in working in the entertainment field by giving them opportunities.

The majority rule society, so the Latinx community should be the dominant group on the big screen. However, this is far from reality. Latinx directors may not be able to enter the entertainment industry but the barriers that Latinx actors face are equally difficult. Even though 18% Americans are Hispanic-American, only 3% occupied speaking roles in top 100 films. This is a huge gap between the actual representation of major ethnic groups and their population. Although Asian-Americans and African-Americans appear less often in films, their speaking roles are still significant compared to the total U.S. population. The American film industry must continue to promote diversity. The Academy needs to make significant improvements in this area before it can be called truly diverse.

In recognition of the Academy’s inadequacy in Latinx speaking actors, there has been a lack of acknowledgment. These awards are very rare for Latinx actors, both in terms of nominations and wins. The honor has been given to Latinx actors for supporting roles, which is almost as rare as Oscar-winning Latinx actors. Penelope Cruz won the award in 2009 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona’s supporting role. Worse, Jose Ferrer has won Best Lead Artist in 1951 as a Latinx, while Penelope Cruz was awarded the award for her supporting role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It is quite shocking that such a large group of Latinx actors has not been awarded any awards, especially since the industry is based in Los Angeles, where half of the population are Hispanic. It is no surprise that so many Latinx people are looking for roles. These people are often overlooked by Hollywood executives, who want to “romantically” find international talent. While this continues to promote diversity, it does not benefit the Latinx community. This is because foreign actors have different experiences than Latinx-Americans. They can also be used to spread unfair stereotypes, which have been pervasive in American filmmaking for decades.

Latinx people have been stereotyped from the beginning of silent film. These include the “greaser”, which describes “Mexican Bandits and other lazy and untrustworthy Mexican characters”, as well as the “Latin Lover,” that portrays Mexicans being “innately passionate” and sexual. While this portrayal was protested, white executives created neutral Latinx that were not tied to any country but still offensive. Stereotypes like those shown in these films are no longer prevalent, but their long-lasting history has forced us to pay more attention to stories that reflect the negative aspects of the Latinx population, such as drug lords. Stereotypes are perpetuated, creating a misperception of Hispanic culture. To change this perception, Hollywood must make entertainment more accessible for Latinx actors and filmmakers to create accurate representations of America’s Hispanic experience.

Latinx movies don’t have to be about Latinx culture or traditions. This can alienate non-Latinx viewers and be too overwhelming. Simply by having more Latinx actors in speaking roles, it will tell the story and show how Latinx people live. Speaking roles allow characters communicate their inner thoughts and can be used to translate Latinx stories into English. This means that it doesn’t make sense to make movies about Latinx characters, like those in poor Mexican villages, or Latinx activists in America. Simply swapping Latinx actors in love stories for white ones would increase diversity and awareness of Latinx because Latinx people are inherently more exposed in America than their white counterparts.

Latinx actors do not get the recognition they deserve. This is because they aren’t given the chance. However, Hollywood is already trying to change the reality. Christy Haubegger (Agent at Creative Artists Agency, CAA) is the founder and CEO of Latina Magazine. She dedicates her time to helping young people of colour get into this highly competitive industry. Haubegger aims to help minority youth realize their Hollywood dreams. Even though Hollywood executives may not all have the time or ability to dedicate their lives to minorities, Haugger’s commitment to them gives some insight into ways to fix the problem. Even if they are unable to give their time, executives can make it easier for people to get into the entertainment industry. Open auditions are a common feature in film productions. Talent agencies and production companies might consider creating an open application to make their executive hiring process more inclusive. While this is not a panacea for Hollywood nepotism, it might offer opportunities for certain minorities not available otherwise.

Some argue that #LatinosLeftOut is invalid since Latinos are fairly represented in the American entertainment industry. These individuals claim that the Oscars actually do justice for diversity. They cite Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro in Mexico, and Chile’s A Fantastic Woman which tells the story of a transgender girl. These films are great examples of Latinx filmmaking that have been recognized. However, these were the only Latinx-directed projects to be nominated. The Academy nominated only two Latinx films out of dozens. It is clear that they have not made much progress towards diversifying entertainment. Del Toro’s film also features Latinx characters. The same holds true for Oscar-winning films Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman (Carroll) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman (Carroll). Latinx filmmakers don’t have to tell stories only about Latinx culture. However, the overwhelming enthusiasm in support of a film featuring white characters illustrates the lackluster diversity that is America’s critically-acclaimed films.

These directors also failed to hire American Latinx producers and other high-ranking positions. In Hollywood, Latinx directors are often overlooked and do little to increase diversity. These instances of Latinx filmmakers who succeed are more rare than they should be. It is not a sign of progress in Latinx representation that a Latinx movie is nominated in the foreign-film category. However, this film will always have Latinx actors. It is a good thing to nominate films from Hispanic countries, but it does not affect the inclusion of Hispanic American professionals who are struggling to get recognition in America. Although the Academy’s responsibility to promote diversity in film is not solely theirs, they are a key institution many respect as they make the final decision on which films should be recognized. They have some responsibility to make sure that the culture is inclusive of the Latinx community. They often choose to hinder diversity and do the opposite.

Whitewashing is an act of replacing a traditional person of color with a white character or actor. It can take on many forms. The whitewashing Latinx parts in Hollywood films such as Argo and The Magnificent seven has been a problem since the 1970s. This is evident in Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Griselda Blanco, a role she played in the biographical TV movie Cocaine Godmother. The fact that the Colombian drug lord’s protagonist was played in this role by a white woman prompted outrage. This is one reason Latinx actors are underrepresented in the entertainment business. White actors are often given roles that are about Latinx people, even if they can play them better. Zeta Jones defends her controversial role with multiple explanations. She explains that Zeta was selected for her talent through screen-testing with six Hispanic females. Her cross-cultural portrayal is also compared to “against kind[casting]” other actors do in other films. But this is where she has a deep understanding of the issue. It’s like a comedian playing an important character. Or a similar dissonant casting which doesn’t address one of the deep-rooted traits of one’s identity. This ignorance contributes towards the problem of underrepresentation as white actors do not realize the harm they are doing to Latinx communities and to diversity in the entertainment business. Another issue is the interplay of Latinx underrepresentation. Some have called #LatinosLeftOut unnecessary while others call it exclusionary. Like many movements, it tends to focus on white and light-skinned people in the group and does not give people of color equal representation. A survey of over 1500 U.S. Hispanics revealed that 24% thought they were “Afro-Latino”. Although nearly 25% of Hispanics identified as having Caribbean/African roots, Americans view Hispanics as being lighter-skinned. This is in line with many Latinx celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Lopez. Afro-Latinx Hispanics often portray light-skinned Hispanics. Therefore, Americans tend to overlook the Afro-Latinx population. Exclusion is the primary problem facing Afro-Latinx communities, much like the issue of Latinxs being underrepresented in film. Afro-Latinos will be better understood by Americans if they have more access to the film industry. Afro-Hispanics will be more visible, which can help them gain greater acceptance and respect.

It is possible to hope that Hollywood will see more of the rapid changes sparked by #OscarsSoWhite 2016 and other similar initiatives. While diversifying Hollywood requires significant effort, even small changes can result in a new experience for Latinx audiences. Their stories should be true to their experiences and dispel the stereotypes that have plagued Hispanics’ perceptions for many decades. It is possible to make more films about Latinos and increase their visibility. Latinx people should be in a position to see someone who looks, acts, and talks like them.


  • oscarcunningham

    Oscar Cunningham is a 41-year-old educational blogger and professor. He has been writing about education for over 10 years, and is known for his expertise on online learning and digital media. Cunningham is also a frequent speaker on these topics, and has given talks at a range of universities around the world. In his spare time, he also enjoys playing the violin and running.

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